Going to school with friends, attending class with them, grabbing a “Subway”, watching the latest flick with the gang, chilling at a coffee shop…the youth today tend to spend considerable amount of time with their peer group in a day, as compared to with one’s family. Thus, the influence of the peer group in one’s decision making process tends to don more significance as compared to the family’s. This evident pressure also comes into play when a youngster has to make probably one of the most important decisions of his life; joining professional college, or taking up a particular course of study.
“Peer pressure influences occur primarily due to familiarity, wherein, like in the case of joining the same college as friends, a youngster knows that they can travel together, hang out together, thus eliminating the fear of moving to an uncharted territory,” feels Parveen Shaikh, Head Psychologist, Young Buzz. “It also occurs due to perceived perceptions of an individual with regards to the group, or the group’s”
Illustrating Neha Badlani, a media professional states “Most of my peer group, being older than me, were studying interior designing. Looking at their lifestyle, I assumed it would be very “cool” and unconventional as compared to a BCom or BA, and so I plunged into it without any adieu” Devang Narang seconds “Post standard twelve, all my friends were taking up engineering in Information Technology, it being the latest trend at that time. So I joint the race.”
At that impressionable age, the kind of influence of the group is critical, since a youngster feels he can identify and connect with the members of the group and is consciously or subconsciously comparing himself to them, always yearning to be at-par, or better. So is this strong influence positive or negative? Parveen feels it’s both.
“I quit the interior designing course a year into it. I realised it just wasn’t me!” exclaims Neha. Devang felt following his peer group was one of the biggest mistakes of his life. “Due to lack of interest, it took me 6 years to finish a 4 year one! I was miserable.”
The influence however, proved to be life changing for Kajal Bijlani, a PR consultant. “Post standard twelve, I did not have a plan! A close friend who was studying BMM, suggested I take it up stating, I would enjoy it just like him, us being similar. So I took it up and today I don’t think I could have done anything else!” Parveen seconds “If a youngster’s friends are all planning to go to Xavier’s college, the student, aware of the fact that he needs to get an 89% to get in, would study harder to get that percentage, which is great!”
So much for the influence, but what about the parents? Teacher Pupul Bhattacharya states “There are times when a child’s peer group can be influencing him to make a blind decision which the parents may object to. Thus now the child would be facing pressures from both the peer group and the family.” So how can this be tackled?? “At this time, the parent must be the guiding light, and must talk to the child in his language” Parveen believes “Parents must not retaliate at such a point. Putting their foot down can instigate the child further. They must lay out all the information in front of the child with regards to the decision, and make the child realise his own potential and competence, thus effectively guiding him to make the correct decision, which may even coincide with his peer group’s.”
So what stands of utmost importance for the youngster here? “Its important to know yourself, your likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, learn to say NO, and not blindly follow the bandwagon!” says Neha. To conclude, Parveen says the motto is “It always starts with “I” and ends with “I” because no one can decide your career better than you can. “